Household Management for Dummies (or Nervous Moms)
Being an adult, keeping a household running, and all the lovely tasks that come with it are not something they teach in school. Here's what they should be teaching us in senior year instead of advanced calculus.
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How do I "adult"?
This sounds like a stupid question, but I guarantee you every single person who's reading this has thought that to themselves at least once. If it's tax season, school registration season, or your car just broke down, you've probably asked yourself that question at least once in the last hour.
I won't go up on my soapbox for this point too long, but they really don't teach in school the type of things you're going to need to be a fully functioning adult in the actual world.
These skills include, but by no means are limited to:
How to buy a house
How to pay your taxes
How to maintain a house
How to make sure your kids don't forget things
How to keep a house clean all by yourself
How to be the one who actually cooks a holiday meal
How to keep track of your family's finances
How to live on a budget
But it's a good thing I studied the ancient Aztecs and trigonometry.
Before We Start, Some Reassuring Statistics
As a mom, you have become the backstop for everyone's problems. You help with homework, you organize doctor's appointments, you print out hubby's plane tickets when he has to travel, and a million other things you don't even know about until you were asked to do them.
It is at this point when I want to mention that executive assistants can make up to $86,000 a year. You're basically doing that job, only instead of having one boss you have many, you work 24/7 instead of 9 to 5, and you're doing it for free.
That's not to give you fodder for a pity party, but it is to let you know that you are actually doing something quite challenging and should be appropriately padded on the back.
How to Do This “Adulting” Thing...the Short Version
Since everything you're doing is a different skill-set, you are going to have to become incredibly good at finding out what you don't know.
There is no way any education could ever prepare you for all the things you will be asked to do as a mom, or a homeowner, or a wife. However, with this majestic thing we call the internet, you have the entirety of human knowledge at your fingertips with the click of a button. Between you and Google, nothing is impossible.
So there's your short answer. You are going to get really good at Googling how to adult until it feels natural. This is not a reassuring answer, but it is the right one.
How to Buy A House
Now I’ve written an entire post on things I wish I had known before we bought our house, but for the purposes of “adulting”, let me give you the top-level bullet points:
DO work with a realtor, but DON’T sign anything with them before you interview a few candidates.
DO look at houses online and pick your favorites, but DON’T get your heart set on any particular one.
DO get prequalified with a lender before you set foot in a single home. (You don’t want to get your heart set on something you can’t afford.)
DON’T get emotional about negotiating for one specific house. DO remind yourself that there are many houses you’ll love equally, this is only one of them.
DO map out your financial situation when it comes to potential monthly payments and DON’T buy the most expensive house you can afford. (Other stuff will come up.)
How to Pay Your Taxes
I’ve learned the hard way that this one is all about having the paperwork where you need it when tax season comes around.
Early on, make a file for “tax documents”, both a digital file on your computer and a physical file in your home. Documents go in these two places and these two places alone. The last thing you want to do is get your tax organizer and have to go on a 15.3 day scavenger hunt through all the receipts in the land. Not a fun time.
Every time something comes you’ll need later (W2, K2, 1099, property taxes, whatever…) scan it immediately into your “Tax Documents” folder with the year, the form type, and the person it applies to in the file name.
Example: (“2019 W2 Hubby.pdf” or “2019 Property Taxes.pdf”)
Then, once you’ve scanned it, put it in your physical “Tax Documents” file.
This way, when it comes to pay your taxes, you not only have all your papers in one place, you have a digital (and therefore searchable by keyword) copy of each one all lined up.
How to Maintain A House
There are way too many features of Home Maintenance to go over in one article. They're actually too many things to go over in an entire blog’s worth of articles.
What you do need to know, are the basic principles of home maintenance.
As I mentioned in my article on how to maintain your home for less money, It might be expensive to maintain your home, but it's way more expensive in the long-term not to. You might have to forego eating out for a couple weeks in order to fix your roof, but if a few broken turn into an actual leak it will be a major financial disaster.
Fix it now, and it will save you money later. It's kind of that simple. An added bonus to this is that a well-maintained home eventually sells for a higher price, so you are also earning money in the long run.
If you're looking for more specific tips about how to maintaining house, I mentioned a few of them in my post on weatherproofing your house, but there's always the omniscient Google. I'm not suggesting you become a YouTube warrior and attempt to perform home improvements eats beyond your capability, but you should be able to do enough research to realize whether a task is something you can do yourself or whether you need to hire it out.
How to Make Sure Your Kids Don't Forget Things
We feel so proud of ourselves when we reach it to adulthood and start doing things like getting to work on time, scheduling our own doctor's appointments, and remembering to change your car's oil once in awhile.
And then you have kids.
Now you have a whole other set of irresponsible humans that you need to get places on time. No one is ever really prepared for this, but the best advice I can give you is to maintain a pretty neurotic level of organization.
I go over how to do this in my step by step guide on how to help kids remember their schedules, but in our family Everything goes on Google Calendars, filed under a calendar for whose event it is.
The toddler's gymnastics classes get scheduled under her calendar, the teenager’s soccer practices go on her calendar, hubby has his work schedule programmed into his calendar, and all of my work calls or client meetings get put on mine. Then, with the magic of calendar sharing, we have one consolidated and color coded family calendar available at the touch of a button.
It sounds complicated, but after spending half an hour one day to set it up, I have set our family up for a lifetime of actually knowing where everyone is supposed to be and at what time.
How to Keep A House Clean All By Yourself
I have written a lot about this.
It's not because I have serious organizational obsession tendencies, although I do. It's really because we have two children, two adults, two gigantic dogs, and a bunny that sheds his own body weight in for every 15 minutes.
Our house gets dirty. Fast.
As is the case with keeping a house maintained, keeping a house clean cannot be described in one post, or even one blog. There are thousands of housecleaning blogs on the internet. Instead, I will give you my greatest hits.
Utilize the two minute rule. This means that when you see a task, if it takes less than two minutes do it immediately. If it takes more than two minutes, put it on your to-do list for later.
Keep surfaces clean in order to ward off potential clutter. (To see how this relates to 1980s criminology, check out my post on the broken windows theory of housecleaning.)
Figure out a schedule of repeating tasks that works for your household. Write your tasks down, and figure out the frequencies that everything needs to be done.
How to Be The One Who Actually Cooks A Holiday Meal
My husband's aunt is a cooking goddess. She is literally one of those people who can cook for 3 days straight without using a single recipe and turn out a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people without breaking a sweat.
It took me five years of my childhood to learn how not to burn grilled cheese.
When I had to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner as the official matriarch of our newly-married family, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. However, through trial-and-error I learned that between you, common sense, the ability to read, and the internet, you can actually create beautiful holiday meals without tearing your hair out.
It just takes tremendous levels of organization. I actually created a free online template for my Thanksgiving meal planning sheet, which has been helping inept Cooks like me bumble their way through Thanksgiving dinners for a couple years now.
How to Get the Right Type of Insurance
Insurance, retirement funds, and other bureaucratic safeguards are possibly the most complicated things I've been asked to understand in my adult life.
Seriously, I've worked as a digital analyst in a New York City marketing firm and the hardest part of my job was understanding my benefits package.
When it comes to insurance, you’ve worked hard for everything that you have. You’ll want to ensure that your valuables are protected as much as possible.
Sometimes things happen that are totally out of your control, which is why it’s so crucial to make sure that you have the right insurance for everything. You’ll also want to ensure that it’s all up-to-date so that you have some peace of mind that you’ll receive cover if and when you need it.
But how do you actually go about picking insurance?
Start by checking out reputable companies like Insurance Doctor so that you can better understand the type of cover that best suits you and your family’s needs. List each individual item or area, and think about risk factors and how they’re used. This will assist you in your decision making when it comes to insuring your car, home, and other valuables.
Then, it’s time to move onto your health and life insurance for your whole family. Again, it’s never nice to think about the worst happening, but the peace of mind that adequate insurance and cover will give you is priceless.
When life does inevitably happen, money, rebuilding, and replacements, won’t have to stress you out further. Therefore, get on top of that cover now, and keep an eye on it should you upgrade things or if circumstances change so that it’s always valid.
How to Keep Track Of Your Family's Finances and Live On a Budget
First, you need a budgeting app. It's really that simple.
The days of balancing your checkbook by hand, in putting all of your transactions manually, or just guessing that you're probably not spending too much money are completely gone.
With modern-day budgeting apps, it's possible to input your login information from your bank and have the app automatically sync all of your transactions on a minute-by-minute basis. You can then create a categorized budget that will make sure you're spending less money than you bring it.
Yes, financial matters are far more complicated than just money in versus money out, but if you're always spending less than you make you're probably going to land on your feet even if you're making other mistakes along the way.
If you do have a budget already and can't seem to make it, check out this easy trick to hit your budget every month. We tried budgeting for literally years before I finally figured this one out.
How to Live on a Budget
Making a budget and living on a budget are two very different things.
Making a budget is all about the big picture. You're looking at your overall income vs your overall expenses. Living on a budget is all about the little things. Choosing to make your own lunch instead of getting take out a couple days a week. Shopping more often so that you don't accidentally let food go bad.
While little choices can't make up for a gross disparity between income and expenses, they do actually make a pretty sizeable difference when your budget should technically be feasible.
Yes, coupons and vouchers, also fall into this category.
You’re bound to have cut some out; so, it’s time to find that drawer that they’re all in, and go through each one. Getting into the habit of utilizing these special offers could save you plenty of money throughout the year. If you see a deal you like the look of, attach it to the calendar, fridge, or somewhere you can quickly grab it before you head out to the store.
There are also plenty of resources online, like comparison sites and other parenting advice blogs where you can chat with other moms. There will always be someone in the playground who’s proud and excited by their latest find or bargain. Gather your resources together, get back to that list, and begin ticking-off all those things that will ensure you’re as organized as can be.
The Big Picture: Don’t Stress Too Much
Family life is always hectic, but those little ones running around are totally worth all that hard work (and tiredness). Running a functioning household can usually be a fulltime job in itself, and with so much going on with kids, work, pets, and the endless list of other commitments; it’s no surprise that certain things can end up in a bit of disarray.
Firstly, don’t worry about it; you’re a human being, and you’re doing a great job bringing up those kids of yours; it’s tough. Next, it’s worth remembering that there are always things that you can do to alleviate some of the stresses within your family household (yes, only some...sorry...).
Little changes and improvements here and there, can really add-up to making a major difference, and you’d be surprised how smoothly things can go, moving forward.
Overall, it’s worth taking some time out to go through everything you have to do as the “household manager”. Grab all that paperwork, and perhaps a notebook and pen (and a coffee and cake while you’re at it), and get on track to an organized, functioning, and smooth-running home.
And when all else fails, Google. Seriously.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz is a wife, mom, blogger, coder (and unabashed digital nerd), PhD student (and huge psychology geek), workout masochist, and occasional human being. She founded The Stay Sane Mom after marrying into the role of stepmom to a preteen girl (and Instagram addict) and shortly thereafter having her first bio kid (now a toddlernado supreme). Her goal is to provide tools and support to help other capable, sleep-deprived, soul-hungry moms master their domains so they have the time and energy to be more than just 'mom'.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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